Still looking for the perfect Father's Day gift? This list should satisfy fathers of all types. Geek dads! Punk dads! Military history dads! No dad stone has been left unturned.

The Sons of El Rey

Alex Espinoza. Simon & Schuster, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-6680-3278-7
Espinoza (Cruising: An Intimate History of a Radical Pastime) returns to fiction with the arresting story of an elderly wrestler’s last days. Ernesto Vega is visited while in hospice care by his son, Freddy; his gay grandson, Julian; the ghost of his wife, Elena; and a manifestation of his lucha libre persona, El Rey Coyote. Elena and El Rey Coyote press Ernesto to reexamine his life and his competing devotions to wrestling, his marriage, and his close childhood friend Julián Tamez. Meanwhile, Freddy, who once performed as El Rey Coyote Jr., agonizes over having to permanently shutter his father’s East Los Angeles gym, which never bounced back after the pandemic lockdowns, and Julian, an underpaid community college professor, chafes at being fetishized by other men for the color of his skin. The seamlessly interwoven story lines bring each character to vivid life, and Espinoza shines in the lucha libre scenes (“The crowd gasping, unmoving as they witnessed the flurry of leaps and jumps, the swirling colors and lights, these men doing such incredible things, things no mortal was ever expected to do”). This is a knockout. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (June)

The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920

Manisha Sinha. Liveright, $39.99 (544p) ISBN 978-1-63149-844-2
In this ambitious study, historian Sinha (The Slave’s Cause) traces Reconstruction’s ramifications beyond its span as official government policy from 1865 to 1877. She proposes that the 60-year period between Abraham Lincoln’s election and the ratification of the 19th Amendment comprised a singular and continuous battle between the forces of “interracial democracy” and “reactionary authoritarianism.” After emphasizing what a triumph for the democratic side of this battle the federal Reconstruction policy was—it secured civil rights for the formerly enslaved and enacted programs of land redistribution and public education—Sinha uncovers a fascinating array of the policy’s ideological ripple effects. Not only did Reconstruction inspire demands for more rights from early populist political movements—including the women’s movement and the labor movement—but it also provoked those opposed to these movements to adopt an “anti-government” political playbook similar to the one that eventually overthrew Reconstruction. For example, Sinha shows that activist homesteaders in Wisconsin, who wanted to seize Native land, used the same language to denigrate Native people as “dependent” on the government that was used to deride freedmen in the South. By 1920, Sinha writes, this anti-government ideology had become ascendent, forming the backbone of laissez-faire, anti-welfare federal policy. Her shrewdly argued study ties together many loose ends while providing propulsively narrated accounts of on-the-ground political violence and activism. It’s an all-encompassing new perspective on American history. (Mar.)

Code Dependent: Living in the Shadow of AI

Madhumita Murgia. Holt, $29.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-86739-1
In this mordant debut exposé, Financial Times editor Murgia goes into the global trenches where artificial intelligence is being rolled out and finds a proliferation of lousy jobs, impenetrable red tape, grotesque misogyny, and tyrannical surveillance. Among those she visits are poorly paid workers in Nairobi and Bulgaria tasked with labeling pictures to train AI systems; an African American engineer who learns that the facial-recognition systems he works on are prone to misidentifying Black people; an Argentinian government official who wrote an AI program to help prevent teen pregnancies that proved a useless failure; UberEats delivery contractors fed up with Uber’s opaque AI system, which routinely cheats and misdirects them (like when it dispatches them to long-shuttered restaurants); an English writer who discovered deep-fake porn of herself all over the internet; and activists battling China’s ubiquitous surveillance of Uyghurs, whose every step is analyzed by AI. Murgia’s vivid, sympathetic reportage looks beneath the grandiose promise of AI to get at the mundane reality of systems that merely automate the inept, callous, and unaccountable mismanagement and dispossession that ordinary workers and citizens already endure. She also intriguingly spotlights an interpretation of all this as a kind of “data colonialism” that extracts data from poor communities just like any other resource. The result is a biting and skeptical look at the brave new world of AI. (June)

Father Time: A Natural History of Men and Babies

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Princeton Univ, $29.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-691-23877-7
Hrdy (The Woman That Never Evolved), an anthropology professor emerita at the University of California Davis, provides an outstanding examination of the history and science of fatherhood. For insight into the evolution of human paternity, Hrdy studies primate fathers, noting that while male chimpanzees brutally murder any baby they didn’t sire, owl monkeys will nurture other males’ infants as if they were their own. Crediting the evolutionary success of early humans to their communal social arrangements, Hrdy cites studies of contemporary hunter-gatherer groups that indicate prehistorical men, though able to take down big game, remained dependent on caloric plants gathered by women. Mutually beneficial gender roles emerged in which men provided protein for the community’s children in exchange for access to foraged tubers and nuts. Tracing the development of fatherhood through the modern era, Hrdy contends that the rise of agriculture and livestock privileged the status of aggressive men who defended their property, producing patriarchal societies that only in the past several decades have started trending toward more equitable divisions of child-rearing. Revelatory scientific studies shedding light on men’s biological proclivity for caring (close association with a newborn has been found to produce in men the same elevated levels of oxytocin seen in women) complement the edifying history. It amounts to an invaluable deep history of dads. (May)

Lies My Teacher Told Me: A Graphic Adaptation

James Loewen and Nate Powell. New Press, $27.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62097-703-3
“History is the only field in which the MORE courses students take, the STUPIDER they become,” according to this striking graphic adaptation by cartoonist Powell (the March series) of sociologist Loewen’s groundbreaking 1995 study, which challenged the prevailing version of American history taught in public schools. From elementary school mythology surrounding Christopher Columbus through the falsehoods, half-truths, and purposeful omissions that inform a typical student’s understanding of slavery, the Civil War, Vietnam, and post-9/11 political discourse, Loewen and Powell’s insightful and often irreverent approach upends standard narratives. They examine the underlying motivations and trends that informed and bolstered a Eurocentric and often idealized version of history—which never let the truth get in the way of a good story in favor of nationalism. Powell’s characteristically fluid art lends new depth to revisited figures including Helen Keller, known by most Americans solely for her disabilities and not for her radical activism, and abolitionist John Brown, condemned by U.S. history books as a mentally disturbed violent extremist rather than a dedicated social progressive. Long a favorite of radical educators, Loewen’s original text receives the vital and accessible adaptation it deserves. (Apr.)

Mary Tyler MooreHawk

Dave Baker. Top Shelf, $29.99 (276p) ISBN 978-1-60309-536-5
Part sprawling adventure series, part manic satire of fandom, this deliciously overstuffed graphic novel never stops to catch its breath. Baker (Everyone Is Tulip) warps a meta-narrative around the discovery of a comic book that he claims in the introduction was “gifted” to him from the future. Spunky “teen sleuth” Mary Tyler MooreHawk, who wears Afro-puffs markedly similar to a certain cartoon mouse, is forever fighting off hordes of monsters, robotic spiders, and supervillains. Interleaved with those action-packed comics episodes are issues of a zine (written also by “Dave Baker”) from a dystopian future where after the “Blue Purge,” outlaw collectors called “Physicalists” seek out episodes of a short-lived series adaptation of Mary Tyler MooreHawk, broadcast via dishwasher. Readers confused by the specifics of dishwasher TV will still easily get lost in the labyrinthine tangles of MooreHawk’s escapades, which are drawn in tight lines with a furious intensity that matches the narrative’s exuberant layering of classic sci-fi plotting, hilariously named sidekicks (Foxtrot Gator Foxtrot, Amy Deathdealer), dense footnotes, quirky backstory, and self-serious navel-gazing (see faux-academic reference to “inimitable Bakerian visual tropes”). Nonstop cheeky asides and nods to everything from Mickey Mouse to Ultraman show off Baker’s piratical spirit without dampening the volume’s originality. This energizing whirlwind will entice fans of Philip K. Dick and David Foster Wallace. (Feb.)

Last Acts

Alexander Sammartino. Scribner, $27 (224p) ISBN 978-1-982196-74-5
Sammartino’s acerbic debut revolves around a troubled father and son in a desolate part of Phoenix, Ariz. David Rizzo’s 30-year-old son, Nick, who’s on the rebound from a heroin overdose, agrees to help his father turn around his latest failing business, a gun shop in an industrial wasteland. They devise a marketing scheme involving a pledge to donate a percentage of the store’s proceeds to a drug rehab center, with Nick acting as the campaign’s poster boy. It works, until a school shooting dampens interest in gun sales. Sammartino spices up the shaggy dog narrative with a transcript of the Rizzos’ various failed attempts to make a TV commercial (“NICK remains in front of wall, but his smile fades, replaced by a glazed stare. He fidgets”) and social media posts Nick writes for a hospice in an effort to raise more cash (“Dying is hard. We make it easy”; “never die alone again #unity”). Sammartino takes aim at some broad and predictable targets as he traces the Rizzos’ downward slide through a collapsing America. Still, his characters’ mutual affection feels genuine. This satisfies on multiple levels. Agent: Michael Mungiello, InkWell Management. (Jan.)

Tolkien: Lighting Up the Darkness

Willy Duraffourg and Giancarlo Caracuzzo, trans. from the French by Fabrice Sapolsky. Ablaze, $16.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-68497-187-9
This illuminating albeit brief graphic novelization of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien spotlights the author’s upbringing and wartime struggles before becoming world-renowned as the creator of The Lord of the Rings. The narrative by French duo Duraffourg and Caracuzzo opens in 1892 with Tolkien’s birth and childhood spent between South Africa and England, a period that cemented his love of myth, languages (including his own invented tongue, through which he communicated with his brother), and nature. The bulk of the volume covers Tolkien’s harrowing years as a soldier in the Great War, during which he wrote poetry in letters to his close circle of school friends, his mind more often straying to elves than thoughts of training or battle strategy. A series of encounters presage the author’s later literary inventions—a strict professor poo-pooing Tolkien’s interpretation of Macbeth hints at the Ents; a tank reminds him of a dragon. Most revealing are the ways in which loss, including a close fellowship torn apart by the war, sharpen Tolkien’s sense of mortality. The art has a clean and classic look, with visual elements of light and darkness neatly paralleling the story arc. Though diehard Tolkien fans might wish for a more thorough treatment, this still satisfies. (Feb.)

The Most Human: Reconciling with My Father, Leonard Nimoy

Adam Nimoy. Chicago Review, $30 (288p) ISBN 978-0-915864-73-7
Attorney Nimoy (My Incredibly Wonderful, Miserable Life) holds nothing back in this raw look at his relationship with his father, Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy (1931–2015). As a child, Adam struggled to connect with his increasingly famous father, whose emotional distance and alcoholism bred deep resentment in Adam. In 2006, after their relationship had essentially dissolved, Leonard wrote Adam an email lamenting that they “never had a relationship that was meaningful and satisfying,” then followed it up with a six-page letter listing his grievances with Adam. After the shock of the letter wore off, Adam reached out, on the advice of a friend, and admitted to many of his father’s accusations, including that he held grudges and could be abrasive. That broke the ice between them, leading Leonard to invite Adam to a Shabbat dinner, which they soon made a tradition. From there, Adam writes of the projects they collaborated on (including documentaries about Star Trek and Leonard’s Boston childhood), the meals they shared in the last nine years of Leonard’s life, and the personal struggles they bonded over; both were divorced, both dealt with substance abuse. Adam’s candor about his own shortcomings lends warmth and self-awareness to the account. Even non-Trekkies will be moved. (June)

All You Need Is Love: The Beatles in Their Own Words: Unpublished, Unvarnished, and Told by the Beatles and Their Inner Circle

Peter Brown and Steven Gaines. St. Martin’s, $32 (352p) ISBN 978-1-25028-501-0
Forty years after The Love You Make, Brown, former COO of Apple Corps, the Beatles’ media corporation, and journalist Gaines reunite for a revealing oral history of the forces that spurred the band’s breakup, which was first announced in 1970. Drawing from a trove of never before published conversations with each band member, except for John Lennon, and their intimates, the account touches on shifty characters within the group’s orbit, including “Magic” Alexis Mardas, who almost talked the Beatles into buying four Greek islands; Lennon’s descent into heroin addiction; and the fraying friendship between Paul McCartney and Lennon as the two fought over shares in the Beatles’ business ventures. There are also plenty of tender moments, including Yoko Ono’s musings on the genesis of her relationship with Lennon while he was still married to his first wife, Cynthia; their love was “bigger than both of us,” Ono claims. Taken together, the interview transcripts reveal that “the time had come” for the band’s split: “Realistically, how long could they go on being a Beatle and feel creatively satisfied?” Brown and Gaines write. Nearly all the interviews were conducted in the two months before Lennon’s 1980 murder, casting a melancholy shadow over his estrangement from McCartney, who seemed to have been softening toward his former bandmate (“I still do feel for the guy.... I still see that he thinks he’s the one who was hurt”). Beatles fans will be impatient to get their hands on this. (Apr.)